The economic recovery in Alberta is underway. Alberta businesses should see an increased pace in business activities, after Alberta’s economic downturn.
During the downturn cut backs are evident and often health and safety programs have been placed secondary in the list of priority items at workplaces. How has your company been creating a positive safety culture through this tough economic time? How can your company afford to make safety a priority when we have been just keeping our heads above water in recent years?
Time and again, we here at Western Safety Consulting Inc. hear of companies and organizations, large ones in fact, that have made cutbacks over the last few years. The cuts seem to be in the areas of safety personnel, equipment, and systems. These companies are now dealing with the consequences of those cutbacks. Maintaining compliance with company programs and government legislation has become an issue. The reality is that the recent Government changes to workplace safety legislation and enforcement procedures, has caused dramatic changes in compliance with a higher level of regulations to follow. Implementing the regulations can be costly, time consuming, and the cost of non-compliance is high.
As an owner and/or supervisor of your transportation company, you can make a difference in making safety a priority and it starts with you. To maintain your workplace safety objectives here are three concepts to think about.
1. Be specific in safety program directives
After reading through some health and safety programs, it seems there is little indication of the company goals or objectives. Have a safety program that is clear. Keep safety outward and more visual. Use written communication, such as health and safety manuals, that are easy to read. Have written job descriptions for each position, as well as hazard assessments. Having a well-developed health and safety manual, that is easy to apply, will keep your compliance running smooth and provide direction for your safety programs.
2. Include and engage all employees in health and safety
Western Safety Consulting Inc. was recently teaching a course on Safety Leadership and a sign was posted on the wall that said, “Work hard and be nice.” A good leader strives for all their employees to work hard at being productive and, of course, don’t forget to be nice! What is your safety culture like? Are you frustrated with the time-consuming paperwork? Culture is the character and identity of the company or organization. To increase the importance of your safety culture it is crucial that your team explores all health and safety hazards together. Encourage open, two-way communication and have everyone be part of the plan. Focus on eliminating blame, reinforcing positive behaviors and, most importantly, focus on solutions. By applying these practices daily, it will empower and engage your team to take ownership for decisions made about the safety of themselves and their co-workers. This, in turn, will change the attitude and thinking about safety in the company, creating a workplace where productivity is increased, employee retention is improved, and continuous growth is fostered.
3. Have a behavioural-based observation (BBO) program
Western Safety Consulting Inc. has observed BBO programs improving the safety culture in many companies. Action always speaks louder than words. Begin by looking at your processes and procedures and positively reinforce people for participating in your safety program. For example, watching a foreman fill out the required paperwork, or a worker wearing the correct personal protective equipment are examples of behavioural-based observations. Behavioural-based observations should include all employees, management and supervisors. Encourage all team members to look for positive actions of co-workers, write them down and submit them for a group review. It’s a good practice to review the ‘positive write ups’ and publicly recognize employees during safety meetings or daily tailgate meetings. Some companies may provide small incentives, such as gift cards, as an additional form of encouragement to participate. A behavioural-based observation program will produce a positive safety culture shift among employees and they are sure to become safety champions.
The question remains, how can we make safety a priority and be financially stable in this economy? The answer to that is another question: How can you afford not to? Western Safety Consulting Inc. believes the cost to implement a safety program is outweighed by the cost of fixing compliance issues and the safety of employees. Be specific and clear on your objectives and use many different learning opportunities. Include everyone, because the way people are measured and rewarded will affect your safety culture. Allow all team members to feel empowered by encouraging input. How your employees feel about your company dictates how they behave on the job every day. If companies and organizations place high value and make decisions daily to support the health and safety programs, employees will respond in a safe manner.